Passion makes Davies Papua New Guinea’s favourite geologist

Youth & Careers

PROFESSOR Hugh Davies has made an exceptional contribution to the geology of Papua New Guinea, both in research and in teaching.
He has been awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia in the recent Australia Day Awards for distinguished service to the Australia-Papua New Guinea relations in area of geological sciences and to education as an academic, author and researcher.
The award is the second highest honour in the Order of Australia Awards.
Through this contribution, he has made an impact on the economy of Papua New Guinea, through the education of many thousands of Papua New Guineans, and also to the minerals and energy extractive industries which are a major cornerstone of the growth of the PNG economy.
Davies is now 82 years old and has been in Papua New Guinea since 1957.
He arrived in the country when he was 23.
Davies was born in Perth, in Western Australia, but he has lived in PNG for most of his life.
At the University of Papua New Guinea, where he has been the professor of Geology since 1989, he has created a world-class geology department.
His students have been able to compete for jobs in international markets. This is exceptional for a developing country, and shows that Papua New Guineans can compete with the best in the world.
He has touched and improved the lives of hundreds of students, supporting them as a mentor, teaching them, assisting them in finding jobs and opportunities for further study.
He has placed students in Phd and masters programmes all over the world. Further, in an age where gender equality and equal opportunities for women are now becoming issues in PNG, Hugh was promoting equal opportunities for women in geology 20 years ago.
There are now Papua New Guinean women geologists working throughout the world.
His contribution to the understanding of PNG geology is also outstanding.
He has written over 100 academic (peer-reviewed) papers on the geology of PNG, and a number of books.
He began his research in PNG in 1956 with the Australian government, and then went on to a PhD at Stanford University studying
unique aspects of New Guinea geology.
Following this he was chief government geologist of PNG, and has held a number of other leadership roles in industry and community (managing director of Ok Tedi Mining Ltd, executive manager of the Geological Survey of PNG, chairman of the National Disaster Awareness and Preparedness Committee).
Hugh is a humble and dedicated man. He considers Papua New Guinea his home. He received the Michael T Halbouty Outstanding Leadership Award from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists in 2006 which is given for outstanding and exceptional leadership in petroleum geosciences
Following the Aitape tsunami in 1998, which caused a devastating loss of life and livelihood, Davies was on the ground providing assistance and information to the local people, and researched the event for a number of years. Out of this he established the Centre for Disaster Reduction at the University of PNG which, among other functions, provides ongoing information to the local population at risk areas.
Davies is widely loved and appreciated by his students, and very highly regarded by his colleagues.
Year in and year out he has applied himself absolutely and completely to the task of improving geology in PNG – for the love of his work.
He considers it a great privilege to do the work that he has done. He considers himself one of the lucky people whose work is his first love.
Hugh stopped teaching four years ago at the age of 78 and is now working on research fulltime at the University of PNG where he lives with his wife Connie, who is still teaching high school in Port Moresby.
He is still mentoring students, helping them with research, and further study opportunities.
He has written two books in the past three years (a geology text specific to PNG and a book on the Aitape tsunami mentioned above) and is currently working on a book which gives an overview of the geology of PNG.
Speaking at the launching of his novel titled The Aitape Story he urged people to be prepared for any situation of conflict.
“If your village is near a volcano, then you would know everything about the volcano, you would always be prepared or aware of its dangers,” he said. “Or if you live on a busy street, you would not let your kids out of the house.”